Read this. I have had a few discussions with my manfriend about education and the value of liberal arts versus non-liberal arts education. He was a physics major, I was a French major. We both have practical jobs that contribute to society (Engineer and Nurse Practitioner, respectively), but we got there in very different ways. I read medieval French literature throughout my college years, took art history, english, theology, ethics, and various other courses. He also took some of these, and spent much of his time in science labs and doing complicated math problems. However, both of us had to take core courses and learn to read and write well, to speak on most topics, and to learn to research any topic. We had a complete education (though I like to argue that majoring in something unrelated to my current job makes me more “well rounded” and he likes to argue that it was a “waste of money”).
Back in high school, I completed my senior research on a comparative study of the US and French education systems. France puts its students on “tracks”, (technical, science, arts, etc) while the United States has maintained a largely classic education system (though it is slowly shifting away from Shakespeare and towards Accounting classes…). Sadly, there has been a push for more math courses, more science courses, and fewer arts courses in all of the schools. Students are encouraged to take AP Calc B/C before they are encouraged to take AP Latin. This is a shame! Stanley Fish, I, too agree that we need the wisdom of the ages infused in our thinking. A classical education is almost like a religion; it’s a groundwork of wisdom from which we can maneuver in today’s world.
So no, I do not use my Latin, French, Theology, English literature, French Literature, Medieval French Literature, Art History, Ethics, or Philosophy in a visible way in my practice. I don’t think about these things when I’m drawing labs. However, when I’m speaking with my patients, I can connect with them in a way that makes our connection feel familiar…that personalizes them. Everyone can relate to classic literature and in what can be a stark and cold clinical environment, a touch of Hemingway and Steinbeck never hurt anyone. Thank you, classical education. You made me a person and not a tool in today’s society.